Jazz Ensemble Rehearsal

No recordings for tonight’s rehearsal – but plenty of notes. Tonight’s rehearsal had two main goals – to get our new vocalist, Alyssa R., into a few numbers and to work on them for Thursday and to work on the tunes for Thursday that we haven’t had a chance to work on since before last week’s concert.

This is the Jazz Ensembles’ third or fourth year (I’m losing count) doing a holiday tour. While some teachers don’t feel that the holiday music is worth spending time on, I feel that it’s a great way to keep the band out and performing while still working on improv and some serious chord changes. Some of the tunes we’re doing do have some complex changes, and they’re not all that easy to solo over – so we’re entertaining our audience during this festive time of year, we have numerous performance opportunities (not as many this year du to Sandy, but still…), and we get to work on concepts in music (improv, learning new chords and scales, and performance elements like intonation, blend, balance, etc.) All in all it works out well.

this year we have a number of new tunes that we’ve prepared and while many of our tunes have been performed before, they’re really not exactly the same as in past years as we’ve changed the arrangements to fit our new instrumentation. We also change up tunes and re-arrange them to make them either better – or just different!

Here’s our set list ( in no particular order) and some rehearsal and arranging notes for each song:

  • A Child is Born – completely new – by Thad Jones. It’s a great composition, but the original arrangement was written for a full big band. Our arrangement has been adapted to fit our smaller ensemble. So far it’s been going well but next year we may keep this tune but with a different arrangement – probably adding a vocalist and completely re-arranging the horn parts.
  • O Holy Night – we’ve done this one for several years now, but it’s a big crowd pleaser. This year we’re doing two different arrangements of the same tune one for full band and full choir, and the other for our smaller jazz ensemble.
  • Happy Christmas (War is Over) – we originally were only going to play this in the showcase concert with the choir, but we’re now also going to perform it with our new vocalist with the small jazz ensemble. This is another completely new tune for 2012.
  • Feliz Navidad – this is our third year doing this number, but we keep it in as it allows us to feature our amazing percussionists. Last year we re-arranged the original jazz band arrangement and added a percussion duel between our set player and latin percussionist.
  • Frosty the Snowman, Let it Snow, I’ll be Home for Christmas, and Silver Bells – this is a set of four tunes that we started last year in a very small group – this year we’re doing them with the entire band (a small band) and we’ve re-arranged a few to add a vocalist. We focused on these tunes this evening – especially Let it Snow and Frosty, adding the singer and re-arranging the form for the solos. We even added some double time on Frosty for the trumpet solo!
  • The Nutcracker Suite – taken from Brian Setzer’s amazing arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and performed in the Christmas movie Elf, this tune is a favorite, but it’s getting stale. If we keep it in next year’s book we’ll need to re-vamp the arrangement – maybe adding some more meat from the Setzer arrangement?
  • This Christmas – this is a favorite amongst our fans and the students, but we almost didn’t perform it this year. We decided to change this arrangement this year and add a vocalist in the same style as Chris Brown’s version. We had some major difficulties finding a vocalist – running through three different singers before finding our new singer – Alyssa R. – who’s doing a great job (even though it’s really not in a great key for her!)
  • Mr. Grinch –  a fun easy tune – we’ve been playing it for a few years now with no changes.
  • Here Comes Santa Clause  – another old arrangement – we shortened it this year taking out a huge redundant soli for the winds. Present arrangement is much simpler.
  • The Christmas Song – a new ballad for 2012 – never performed this one before. Band is doing a great job with it! A great song to work on dynamic contrast and intonation – easy to play but difficult to master and make musical.
  • Hot Chocolate – we skipped this one last year, but we have played it in the past. This new arrangement features a screaming guitar solo and trumpet solos, a really quick up-tempo number that smokes. We re-did this arrangement to accommodate our smaller group and it’s working out great. We’ll probably open with this one.
  • My Favorite Things – a number we’ve done in the past, but really haven’t had time to work on this year. We’ll need to shed this one over the next two days in order to perform it in concert on Thursday.

I think that’s it for this year. Band – what’s your favorite number from this year’s holiday set list? What’s your least favorite that we should drop next year? And finally, what’s missing? What should we add for next year?

Photo Credit: jDevaun.Photography via Compfight cc

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4 Responses

  1. K-Dizzle says:

    I personally thought that this Winter Season was great, nevertheless, there’s always room for improvement. Next year, I think it’ll be cool if we learn a bunch of contemporary Christmas songs by current artists that play on the radio. These songs might attract more people to watch us since its new.

  2. K-Dizzle says:


  3. germainbbhs21 says:

    My favorite tune was Feliz Navidad,and least favorite was Nutcracker Suite.

  4. robertpbhs13 says:

    My favorite piece from this year was Hot Chocolate, if i had to choose my least favorite it would have to be Here Comes Santa Claus. Next year I think we should play Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney.

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